Making the World Smaller: Interviews, Google

This anonymized email correspondence is part of my series on “Making the World Smaller”. See the introductory post for context.

Hi Peter, I hope you are doing great!

I read your post at your blog about your google internship experience and I wanted to ask you some questions about it if you don’t mind.

More specifically I want to ask you about the interview, because I am at a similar position you were at that moment. I have an internship interview with google in the following weeks and I haven’t seen yet any of the topics that the interview consists at school (discrete math, algorithms, data structures, etc). 

And although I have quite a bit of experience programming and I’ve been studying data structures and algorithms on my own I don’t feel like I am ready yet, specially after failing an interview with Facebook a few weeks ago .

In conclusion, these are my questions:

  • How was your interview experience, were you able to answer every question?
  • Do you think I should take the interview and have a high chance of failing or wait and reapply next year when I feel more ready? I feel a bit disoriented, so I would really appreciate your answer

Thank you very much for you time.

Hi X,

Thanks for reaching out. I think getting ready for interviewing is really just about practice and repetition. I remember when I was in this position I started practicing algorithms in August and had my interview around October/November, so I practiced every day for three months (4-8 hours I think).

I don’t know what your plan for studying is/was, but I started by watching “Introduction to Algorithms” on Coursera and then just worked through “Cracking the Coding Interview” cover to cover. I think the latter will prepare most people for internship interviews.

To answer your questions:

  1. Yes I was able to answer all questions. I struggled with one but finished them all.
  2. I don’t see the benefit of not doing the interview this year. In the worst case you’ll have gained experience and maybe gotten some feedback on where you should improve. You gain nothing from declining this year.

Either way, I think the most important thing to have for interviews is confidence. If you go into an interview thinking you won’t make it, you’re not going to make it. Period. No matter how prepared you are technically, being prepared mentally is just as important. Go into the call knowing you’ll come out with an internship, and then it might actually happen :)